Santa Barbara

Unexpected Bliss: A Pop-Up Show Explodes to Life in Santa Barbara

Alan Macy's Interactive Sculpture by Shaun Robinson.jpg

This is how it is supposed to be - a crazy train of creativity chugging straight into the heart of your city, doors wide open, and conductors waving everyone inside for a hands-on adventure to places unknown, wonderful, and weird. It doesn't happen much around these parts, the standard ebb and flow of the art scene in Santa Babylon being a different sort-- and much more predictable-- type of beast. However, right now, burning big and bright for the next week smack in the middle of State Street, there is a pop-up show just doing the damn thing in a currently unrented 4,000 square foot storefront. Wandering through a sea of Opening Night people, a visibly blissed Ted Mills, one of the show's organizers, beams as a dancer performs in tandem with a hovering quad-copter just behind him, "Why aren't we doing this all the time?! We should be doing this all the time."

360 panorama of Standard Deviation | Photo: Shaun Robinson (Brooks Institute)

Appropriately, the show is called Standard Deviation. It is the creation of Mills and fellow artists Marco Pinter along with a little help from Morgan DeLucia, the latter providing the critical link in the equation that allowed a bunch of mildly mad creative-types to commandeer a massive retail space front and center on Santa Barbara's main drag in the middle of the city's busiest tourist week of the year. This week marks Santa Barbara's Fiesta Celebration, an annual boozed up ode to its Spanish roots complete with countless mariachi shows, public dance performances, tens of thousands of visitors, and the biggest horse parade west of the Mississippi. A builder by trade, DeLucia is employed by the building's owner doing some re-model work and, given its current empty status, hatched a plan with Pinter to fill it up temporarily with living breathing works of art and dance. Mills was then brought in to lead the charge with curating a multi-artist show focused on motion, connection and an ever-changing environment. "Empty storefronts are a commonality in the last few years on State Street," explains Mills about the current economically influenced realities. "But why not take that temporary status and embrace it? Why not create a cool little moment that locals and visitors can happen upon?"

The public. | Photo: Ted Mills

Cool is an understatement. Stepping inside the space is, to paraphrase Tom Wolfe, akin to a wonderful LSD experience minus the LSD. From the sidewalk outside Ethan Turpin's "Art Box", a 12' tall repurposed window display device found in a dumpster outside a high-end mall, beckons you in. Rather than hosting some glossed-up fashion photo, Turpin has filled the glowing rectangle with a colorful collection of translucent plastic, everything from candy wrappers to shopping bags, and the end result is melting mural of cultural color or, as he calls it, "painting with trash." Upon entry, DeLucia and Pinters collaboration stares you in the face, a monolithic bit of minimalist work that stretches towards the ceiling with 4 large aluminum rectangles punctuating it, one of which spins dare you climb the near-by ladder. From there, the beats of a DJ and the swirl of shadows and lights associated with various video installations pull you deeper down the rabbit hole. As one wide-eyed visitor observed to no one in-particular upon her entry Wednesday night, "What the hell is this place?"

Dancer and painting | Photo: Masha Keating

Once inside, the magic begins to crank in earnest. In one corner sits Alan Macy's "Reincarnation Lounge Chairs", a pair of soft and inviting papasans tricked out with a few hapstic transducers (i.e. bio-feed back devices) and analog electronic amplifiers. The end result is a trippy little ride where you sit in the chairs, strap in, and start to feel yourself get involved in the beat of your own heart, the whole chair pulsing and echoing around you with the rhythm of your own life and an overhead light flashing to the same beat. Welcome back to the womb you think just as Macy flips a switch and your heart beat gets switched with the person sitting across from you. On the other side of the long room looms Jonathan Smith's "Centralized Park", a glowing city of wood and fabric 10' towers buzzing with projected electric colors. Right next to that, the Peace Store's old dressing rooms are, quite literally, buzzing thanks to Turpin and Smith. The duo, projecting macro-lens footage of a real life bee hive on and through the frosted glass doors of the five oddly shaped dressing rooms, have created a captivating in-colony experience that only gets better when you actually enter the rooms. And then, working as refreshing rest areas in the mad house, there are doses of more "static" art, things like Masha Keating's 8' by 8' vagina meets butterfly meets flame painting titled "Wingspan" and Meighann Athena Helene's deeply textured, layered and emotive works dot the walls in between and provide a captivating sort of shelter from interactive and performance art storm raging all around you.

Gallery | Photo: Shannon Spence

The show, which is open every afternoon and evening at 740 State State Street until it closes, is a special sort of fun, the type that often ends before you fully realize what is happening but also has a power that works on you for days afterwards. "You plan a little but not too much." says Mills, "It is very last minute, very organic but then it happens and you realize later, 'yeah, something special was going on there, something was in the air."

Interactive sculpture by Marco Pinter and Morgan DeLucia | Photo: Shaun Robinson

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Top Image: Interactive sculpture by Alan Macy | Photo: Shaun Robinson

About the Author

Born and raised on Cape Cod, Ethan Stewart has been calling Santa Barbara home off and on since that great El Nino winter of 1998. On his way to writing the news for The Independent, Stewart has worked as a bellhop, a carpenter, a...
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